The Ocean is full of plastic. Plastic has been in production for 100 years and millions of tons of it has found its way into the sea.

It is difficult to think of a product that doesn’t contain or isn’t packaged in it. Among its many applications, plastics ensure that transportation is more carbon efficient, avoids food waste by keeping it fresh and allows us to see through contact lenses. The unintended side effect of one of the most useful inventions of our times is putting a strain on our oceans and sea life. Efforts should go beyond the idea of re-cycling and we should re-examine the idea of plastic, one of the most resilient products ever invented, as a throwaway commodity.

Although going completely plastic free is difficult, every little helps and it starts with reducing use of single-use plastic. If you are sailing with your family, get the next generation involved and on the way to learning about the possibility of plastic free oceans.

1. The last straw
Straws are small pieces of plastic that are largely unnecessary. Many sea creatures, especially seabirds ingest them and this can be fatal. Cold coffee, soft drinks and cocktails in Greece and Croatia are always served with straws. Ditching straws is an easy way to make a quite a big difference. As you order, make sure to tell your waiter that you don’t want a straw or any other plastic. If you can’t bear the thought of sipping a cocktail on deck at sundown without one, consider stocking up on re-usable, biodegradable bamboo straws.

2. Bring your own
No more single-use bottles or disposable coffee cups. Millions of bottles of water are bought around the world by the minute and few of them are recycled. Invest in a reusable bottle and fill it up instead. Croatia is well-known for the quality of its drinking water and you can fill up your re-usable bottle anywhere. In Greece, do check with your charter company or with the locals; in the cities and towns, tap water is safe, but many of the islands don’t have their own water. Water is shipped in and it may not be drinkable. You could stock up the yacht with glass-bottled water and refill from there. Just think how many plastic bottles you and your boat’s crew will keep out of circulation if you all make an effort to refill. Similarly, investing in your own re-usable coffee cup means no more plastic cups in the garbage. Beach parties are some of the most important places to bring your own cup, to avoid littering the beautiful beaches of the countries you are visiting.

3. Re-usable shopping bags
When packing for a sailing holiday, make sure to take some reusable shopping bags with you, to avoid plastic bags when provisioning in port. Some countries like Greece and Croatia have been slow to adopt the EU policy of reducing single use plastic bags. Since 2018 Greece has started charging a small fee for plastic bags and Croatia is set to start charging in 2019; so it’s even more crucial to take responsibility as a consumer. Sticking with a nautical theme, why not buy bags made out of recycled sails?

4. Plastic-free personal care products
Many commercially produced personal care products are laden with Nano-plastic particles that go straight into the water when you dive off the boat. From toothpastes and deodorants to shower gels, eye shadow and sunscreen, numerous beauty products contain tiny plastic particles. Try to buy plastic free personal care products and sunscreen; or simply use less and cover up to reduce sun exposure.

5. Light a match
Plastic disposable lighters are a scourge of the sea and, particularly, birdlife. Seagulls are known to mistake them for fish and many a bird has died with a belly full of plastic lighters. Stock up on matches instead. The galley stove, candles, beach fires and everything else, can be lit just as well with a match. Completely biodegradable, they’re an easy solution that doesn’t require much effort.

6. Pick up the plastic
While sailing in Greece or Croatia you will, no doubt, stop off at a quiet cove or two. If you see any plastic in the water or on the beach, pick it up and take it with you.

With these six easy ways, you can do your bit to reduce your plastic consumption while sailing and at home. It’s not just a drop in the ocean; we can turn the tide on plastic in our lifetimes if we all lend a hand.

By Merryn Wainwrigh